Can Knitting Improve Your Health?

Betsan Corkhill on the benefits of knitting

December 6, 2015
a knitted purple heart on a wooden table

Flickr user staceyjoy

Betsan Corkhill founded Britain's therapeutic knitting movement -- the clinical application of knitting to treat a variety of mental and physical ailments.  She teaches knitting to patients through the National Health Service and coordinates medical research on its benefits. 



I have recently learned to crochet, and am finding that it relaxes me, an seems to correlate with reduced skeletal/muscle aches. Is knitting significantly different than crochet for health benefits?

Shows and articles never seem to speak in depth to knitters and designers, and come to conclusions about knitting without much information about what really goes into it and what people get out of this craft. It’s always the same conclusions about the meditative aspects of moving the needles in and out. It’s absolutely true for me as for many others that working on something we can hold in our hands instead of something that is virtual and inherently distant is very important. For me, the tedium of knitting isn't what gets me to do it. (That more often puts me to sleep, keeps me from doing it, or gets me to plug into a podcast or a movie.) The boring or easy stuff is great for patiently (and productively!) waiting in lines, doctors offices, and bus rides.

To me and to a lot of my fellow knitters, it’s the seeking of beauty by looking for the next great project or seeking inspiration to create something beautiful and striving for it. The search for beauty and pushing for something new and different (hopefully unique and exceptional) -- these are important reasons for knitting’s positive impacts. It's an inherently positive reach beyond the mundanity of life's boring details. The designing -- whether on paper or directly on the needles -- is energizing and exhilarating. Failures are annoying and are part of the trial-and-error process of design work. But moving past them is amazing. Also, with knitting there is the progression of learning new techniques and mastering them. So, there's this huge spiritual/emotional/cognitive aspect that is totally overlooked in the simplistic explanations of why knitting is so good for us.